I just love a book with a strong heroine. Throw in a little history and I'm all over it. Ms. Marks Regency romance, The Fencing Master's Daughter, in that respect, does not disappoint.
The Fencing Master's Daughter is beautifully written by a clearly un-American author, which is refreshing. Her language flows in a way that is a delight to read, with gobs of subtle tongue-in-cheek humor. Ms. Marks sets the tone through vivid setting descriptions as well as lovely narrative. Intricate plotting and vivid secondary characters shine through in this story, and the descriptions of food are very well done. I ate the entire time I read this.
There were a couple of things I didn't care for. The book was narrative heavy, without enough dialogue, and I never really felt like I connected to the main characters. However, in the end, I was rooting for them, so there must have been some connection.
Overall, this book has a lot of promise, and I'm eagerly anticipating Ms. Marks next story.
Describe your writing process.
The most honest answer to this question is inconsistent. Once I have an idea, I let my mind pull it about until I have a plot or story and characters. When it has shaped up into a decent story, then I will start to type either an essay plan or the beginning of the story. In the context of Regency Romances I will then try to do my research about anywhere or anything mentioned in the story to try to get my facts correct and authentic. I try to check all facts during and at the end of the writing process.
Whether I write an essay plan depends on the aimed for length and the complexity of the story or book. If no computer is available I may even write a first draft long hand. “The Fencing Master’s Daughter” had not much of an Essay Plan,
What motivates you to sit down and write?
My characters do. If they want me to write the scenes of their stories then they will intrude on my thoughts until I actually give them shape in writing. I argue with them continuously when I am writing a long piece. They may even alter my essay plans and insist to run their own lives. Basically once the characters are decided, they largely decide what is written although I do not include all the scenes they tell me about.
Where does your inspiration come from?
I have always written whether fact or fiction. I enjoy the process of polishing something so it is a pleasure to read and appropriate for the purpose for which the writing was intended. But inspirations can come from anything. Something I’ve read or heard, a dream, someone I’ve seen and some mornings I just wake up with a new story started in my head or a scene from my WIP that hadn’t been coming simply there ready to write. Then I get straight on and get a first draft down as quickly as possible.
What do you think your greatest strength is in your writing?
I write good enjoyable to read English but I think my strengths lie in character and plot building. Once I have worked out my main characters and found a scene to thrust them into, then I can sort out the intricacies of the other characters, the reasons and back story behind getting the characters to that situation. Then I move forward and allow their lives to follow the twists and turns of fate or my essay plan.
Do you ever experience writer's block? How do you get through it?
I don’t believe in the concept of Writer’s Block. I think it is a negative term and self-fulfilling. I think to write anything you need to have “Thinking Time.” This is time when the story is not ready to be written. So you let the ideas and characters sort it out by themselves. Meanwhile you get on with something else. You can write something different, edit a previous piece of work, beta or proof read, answer your emails or read a book. If the story still remains in limbo then do the chores you’ve been putting off. Chores completed? Reread your work in progress that is causing you a problem editing and proof reading as you go. If when you reach the end of your piece nothing still comes then go back through your list of what else needs to be done and get on with something. By the third read through I usually find the writing flows. In the case that it still doesn’t then I write on the bottom of the piece what I plan for the characters to do next and list any plot problems that might be limiting the flow. Then I save and quit for the day. The next morning I sit down and write the scene over the top of my plot criticisms. It will probably not be very good, but each time I return to it I’ll rewrite the offending portion until it fits in.
Tell a little about the work you are publishing.
The Fencing Master’s Daughter is a Regency Romance written in fairly traditional style. It has just been released by Front Porch Romance on Ebooks but may be available as print in a few months’ time. Madelaine, my heroine is not a submissive Regency damsel. She is fairly independent and wants to earn a sufficient income to help support her beloved father in his old age. Louis runs a small fencing sale in London. The Fencing Master’s Daughter starts with the hero Edward Charrington, Earl of Chalcombe walking home to Grosvenor Square alone. He becomes slightly lost and is set upon by footpads. Edward tries to defend himself but is bludgeoned to the ground. Despairing for his life, he realizes they are not alone, and the most beautiful girl he has ever seen appears accompanied by an ugly fat little man.
With no expectation of rescue Edward watches amazed as the young woman picks up his dropped foil and dispatches the first felon. Then swiftly disarms and injures a second. Meanwhile the ugly fat man belabours the third villain with the stout stick he carries. The incongruous couple help Edward to safety, taking him home. They refuse all rewards and leave no address where they can be reached. But Edward has seen a glimpse of Madelaine’s face and is smitten. The story continues through Edward’s pursuit of the reluctant Madelaine and of the mysterious enemy who is trying to have him killed.
Tell us about your favourite character from the book.
I find it difficult to pick one character over another, I love them all. I have already told you about Madelaine and Edward’s introduction and the beginnings of their romance. I mentioned Louis who is an enigma in himself. Then there is the mysterious Mr. Grey and the sinister despicable French spy Major Furet but I think I shall tell you a little about the ugly little fat man.
Henri is in name Louis’s manservant and cook. Absolutely loyal to Louis and Madelaine he had tied his colours to Louis’s coattails as a youth. They travelled through Europe together for most of their lives. A brilliant and inventive cook, I have modelled his cooking style on the Prince-Regent’s French chef Marie-Antoine Carême. In my second Regency Romance, ” The Marquis’s Mistake”, which will be released in December by Front Porch Romance, a different couple’s romance unfolds. But some of the characters from “The Fencing Master’s Daughter” are there in support, so we learn Henri is friendly with Carême and knew him in Paris years before.
Do you have any words of advice or encouragement for other writers who are looking to publish?
I have been writing in many forms for a long time in many forms; in government, business, journalism, technical writing and fiction. Any experience or information you acquire during your lives can be used in your writing. If you are determined to write, whether for publication or your own pleasure then you will do so and it will bring you much frustration and joy.
What you write can always be improved. The problem is deciding when to finally let go and allow others to read it. Do not write in a vacuum. If those nearest to you do not understand your obsession, then seek readers and advice from other writers. If you work hard at your stories, the writing will improve. Although reading some writing techniques may assist in that process. I especially recommend Robb Grindstaff, writer and editor whose blogs and articles on the writing process I find useful.
How do you market your work?
The contracts I have got have been achieved by contact with publishers on Facebook. I have messaged them and asked for their submissions pages and then tried to follow their guidelines. I then sent my book file with an attached email to their submissions’ department. I have seen and read the modern US instructions on how to write a query letter. I have not found it any help to me. My emails accompanying my tales have been straight forward business letters. My work stands or falls on its own merits, although I have written blurbs or summaries when requested by the publisher. There is no point sending a story that is the wrong length to a publisher who specifies what length they require. Or hoping they will not notice that it does not fit their guidelines in some way.
I would then format my stories to the shape they required. I have had my share of rejections and have been very diffident about making the huge step towards becoming a published author. I was offered a contract by Front Porch Romance and they have accepted two Regency Romances that I have written.
I then found a new publisher who accepted my Fantasy/sci-fi series with some erotic content. I wrote a short story called Lucy and a friend recommended I sent it to Nevermore Press who accepted it three days after I completed it. Nevermore said they would be interested in publishing anything else I wrote. Unfortunately the very new publisher did not survive to publish my “Zeninan Saga” so I honestly offered it to them and they are now looking at editing it. I expect some rewrites because of the content and the complex nature of the saga. Publishing dates have not yet been decided, but they have the first four books in the series to prepare. I am about half through the 14th series which you could say is technically my main work in progress.
What genres do you write in and do you intend to write in any other genres in future?
So far I have written Historical Regency Romances, Fantasy, Sci-fi/Fantasy with erotic content and a short story which is Fantasy/ Erotica. My current plans are to finish the 14th in the Fantasy series and get on with a third Regency novel which in its infancy “The Compromised Rake.” I have a couple of shorter stories part written that will fill in any Thinking Time I may have and an idea for a YA fantasy series. I may write some Romances set in earlier historical periods but currently have no intention to write contemporary Romance. I don’t think my imagination is dark enough for serious horror but if an idea for a piece of writing in any genre comes to men then I will be driven to do my best to write it until it satisfies me.